Tag Archives: New York State History

Kinderhook Home A Revolutionary War Story of War, Loss, and Exile

On Route 9, just south of the village of Kinderhook in Columbia County, a sign proudly proclaims it as the birthplace and home of Martin Van Buren, the eighth U.S. President. Next to that is a purple-and-gold sign for the local Elks lodge.

Right across the street sits an unassuming two-story red brick house with dormer windows. While locals know it as the Tory House, there isn’t a sign. But this house has its own story to tell about early New York, one of a family among many thousands that picked the losing side in the Revolutionary War and ended up years later losing that home to the victors in a practice that was to be banned in the U.S. Constitution.

That family was named van Alstyne, one of the many families with Dutch roots that settled in the region during the 18th century to farm. The family had three sons _ Abraham, the oldest; Peter, the middle son; and John, the youngest. By the time that the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Peter had built his family the red brick house in Kinderhook on land that he and his brothers had inherited as teenagers two decades earlier when their father died.

Earlier this summer, that house – still used as a residence more than two centuries later – was named to the State and National Registers of Historic Places because of the story of Peter Sander van Alstyne and his family. The narrative of this post is based on research for that nomination submitted on behalf of State Parks by the late Ruth Piwonka, a former member of the Historic Preservation Division at State Parks, and a later Parks consultant and historian for Kinderhook.

Peter Sander Van Alstyne was 32 years old in 1775, already a successful farmer, married and with a young family. A local judge appointed by the Colonial government, he found himself caught up in the conflict the following year when a group of town members come to his home to forcefully tell him that his office, resting on royal authority, no longer had authority to settle disputes over debts. That same year, the beleaguered judge was chosen to be a member of the Albany Committee on Correspondence, a kind of shadow authority created by patriot supporters. But as a supporter of British authority (known as Tory, or a Loyalist), van Alstyne was not to last long on the committee, and he and more than a dozen other suspected Loyalists in that body were soon ordered arrested and imprisoned in 1776.

Many New Yorkers felt as van Alstyne did about their loyalty to England. Some studies estimate that about half of the state’s 200,000 residents held Loyalist sentiments, giving New York the highest percentage of Loyalists among the 13 colonies. Like van Alstyne, many New Yorkers took up arms to oppose what they saw as an an “unnatural” rebellion against the legitimate government.

Van Alstyne was released from jail in early 1777, but after being forced by threats to leave his home, he headed north to join British forces in Canada, and by summer was marching with British General John Burgoyne’s army from Lake Champlain in a bid to capture Albany as part of a strategic plan to split the rebellious colonies in two. His Kinderhook home was being used as a staging point for Loyalists and military supplies in the event that Albany fell.

But that moment was not to come, and van Alstyne was there when Burgoyne’s forces were defeated at the Battle of Saratoga that September, a battle that marked a turning point in the American Revolution and convinced the French to support the rebels.

Surrender of General Burgoyne, painted by John Turnbull, 1822. Showing Burgoyne presenting his sword to American General Horatio Gates at Saratoga, this painting hangs in the U.S. Capitol. Peter Sander van Alstyne took part in this battle – on the losing side. (Photo Credit – Wikipedia Commons)

By 1778, van Alstyne had gone to New York City and Long Island, which were under British control, to command sailors who fought in small boats called bateaux. His armed opposition to the Revolution by this point had put his life at risk. Continental troops stationed near his Kinderhook home were trying to catch him, and had captured some of his associates, some of whom were put to death as traitors. By October 1779, van Alstyne had been formally indicted as an “enemy of the state” by New York authorities under what was called the Forfeiture Act. As the war neared an end, New York officials in early 1783 ordered him stripped of his lands, his livestock, and his home, where his brother John’s family was living.

On Sept. 8, 1783, only five days after the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, van Alstyne and his family, along with many other displaced Loyalists from Columbia, Rockland, Orange, Ulster, Westchester, and Dutchess counties, as well as some of the troops from Major Robert Rogers, of the famed Rogers’ Rangers backcountry unit, set sail for British-controlled Canada, according to a 1901 account published by Columbia University.

Settling on the northern shore of Lake Ontario near Quinte Bay, van Alstyne received a government land grant of 1,200 acres and became a prominent member of the community, being appointed a judge and later winning election to the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada. He died in 1800, at age 57.

The former Kinderhook resident was among thousands of New York Loyalists, perhaps as many as 35,000 people, who left the state during and after the Revolutionary War for refuge in British dominions including Canada, according to the 1901 Columbia University account. That came from a total state population of about 200,000, so the forced migration represented about one in every six New Yorkers.

The 1901 account from Columbia University estimated that during the war, there were “at least 15,000 New York Loyalists serving in the Brish army and navy, and at least 8,500 Loyalist militia, making a total in that state of 23,500 Loyalist troops. This was more than any other colony furnished, and perhaps as many as were raised by all others combined.”

The legacy of these Loyalists who left New York can be found in the historic structures along the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. Said State Parks historic researcher William Krattinger, “I focus quite a bit on the built and architectural environment and have seen examples of Dutch-framed barns and houses erected in Ontario, undoubtedly erected by builders from the Hudson, Mohawk and Schoharie valleys who were banished to the north after the Revolution. These New Yorkers brought their material culture with them.”

This 1786 painting by James Peachy, a British military surveyor, shows American Loyalists camped out on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River at Johnstown (across from present-day Ogdensburg) during the summer of 1784 as part of their relocation into new lands in Canada. (Photo Credit – American Revolution Institute – Society of the Cincinnati)

Two years after van Alstyne’s death, New York State officials passed a law in 1802 to renew its still incomplete efforts to confiscate a list of Loyalist properties – a list that included van Alstyne’s Kinderhook home. Offering a bonus to anyone who pointed out forfeited property that had still not been seized, the law described those who had forfeited that property for opposing the Revolution as “attainted.” This concept originates from English criminal law, in which those condemned for a serious capital crime against the state lost not only their life, but also their property, the ability to bequeath property to their descendants, and any hereditary titles.

New York’s bid to seize and sell off remaining Loyalist property two decades after the end of the war came even though the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1789, specifically prohibits “bills of attainder” passed by legislatures to condemn those deemed state enemies and seize their property.

Here the trail of what happened to van Alstyne’s red brick house grows cold. A clear title to prove who owned the home after van Alstyne lost ownership appears in the public record only starting in the 1850s, although records of forfeiture and sale for other Loyalist properties in Columbia County do exist.

The fate of this home represents just one family’s part of the larger story of how the end of the Revolutionary War meant exile and loss for thousands of New Yorkers who had sided with England, and how the fallout of that time continued for years until the Revolution could truly considered to be ended.


Cover Shot _ Peter Sander Van Alstyne house, Kinderhook. All photos NYS Parks unless otherwise credited.

Post by Brian Nearing, Deputy Public Information Officer, New York State Parks

Resources

Learn more about the Loyalist experience in New York State, using these sources:

A New York Public Library blog post on the 1802 list of Loyalist property to be confiscated in New York State.

A 1901 study into Loyalism in New York State by Alexander Clarence Flick, published by Columbia University Press.

An account by the National Library of Scotland into the lives of two New York Loyalists.

A NYS Parks Blog post about Hudson Valley Loyalist Frederick Philipse III, one of the richest men in Colonial New York whose home is now Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site in Yonkers, Westchester County.

Compliments of the Season

Every year, Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site in Albany recreate the sights, sounds, and smells of the holiday season in Colonial New York’s Upper Hudson Valley.

Salutations Rural Felicitya
Rural Felicity sings Saluations

Crailo was once a fortified home belonging to Hendrick van Rensselaer, a member of a wealthy Dutch family involved in settling the Upper Hudson Valley during the mid-1600s. For the van Rensselaers and other Dutch colonists, holidays on the Hudson began with the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th. According to the legend, the Dutch St. Nicholas, known as Sinterklaas visited homes and filled good children’s shoes with treats and gifts. In 1675, Crailo’s owner, Maria van Rensselaer, purchased suntterclaesgoet, or “Sinterklaas goodies,” (possibly a special type of cookie) in Albany, in what might be the earliest reference to Sinterklass in New Netherland and New York.

St. Nicholas Day began the holiday season in Colonial New York, and Epiphany, commonly known as Twelfth Night, marked the end of the Christmas season.  In Western Christianity, the Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the Magi, or Three Kings, to Bethlehem. This was traditionally celebrated on January 6th, the 13th day and the ‘twelfth night’ after Christmas.

Liaisons Plaisantesa
Liaisons Plaisantes plays in one of Schuyler Mansion’s parlors.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, Dutch and English residents of Albany and the Upper Hudson Valley celebrated Twelfth Night with both religious services and high-spirited entertainment. While there are no primary sources that describe exactly how the Schuyler family celebrated the holiday at Schuyler Mansion in Albany, letters and journals do mention popular customs such as calling on friends, throwing parties, and hosting elaborate meals. Alongside this, were the traditions of wassailers, or carolers parading through the streets and the Twelfth Night cake – an elaborate confection with a bean baked inside. The person who found the bean in their cake slice was crowned “King” for the evening and led the evening’s toasts!

CakeEd
Twelfth Night cake ready to be cut

Each January, Schuyler Mansion and Crailo recreate some of these colonial era traditions with their own 17th and 18th century-inspired Twelfth Night celebrations.  Schuyler Mansion’s “Salutations of the Season!” features live musical performances, reenactors in 18th century clothing, refreshments, and an evening of cheer. While across the Hudson at Crailo, Dutch colonial reenactors prepare traditional Dutch foods over the open hearth, play historic games, and celebrate “Twelfth Night” in true 17th century style.

Schuyler Mansion’s “Salutations of the Season!” and Crailo’s “Twelfth Night” will be held January 5, 2019 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  These evening programs are a unique opportunity to celebrate the end of the holiday season in historic fashion.  The celebrations also represent the rich and storied history of New York’s upper Hudson Valley – settled by the Dutch, taken by the English, and then a hotbed of military and political activity in the era of the American Revolution.

“Salutations of the Season!” and “Twelfth Night” single-site Admission: $6.00 Adults / $5.00 Seniors & Students / $1.00  Children (12 and under) / $4.00 Friends Members. Combination Tickets for Admission to both Crailo and Schuyler Mansion: $8.00 Adults / $7.00 Seniors & Students / $2.00 Kids / $6.00 Friends members. For further information about this or other programs at Crailo and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Sites, please visit www.parks.ny.gov, find us on Facebook, or call us! Crailo: (518) 463-8738 / Schuyler Mansion: (518) 434-0834.

National Purple Heart Hall Of Honor: Who We Are, What We Do…& Why We Need Your Stories

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor recognizes the sacrifices of Purple Heart recipients. Our mission is to collect, preserve, and share the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across all conflicts for which the award has been available. We are located in the Hudson Valley, (New Windsor) 12 miles north of West Point, on the same grounds that the Continental Army occupied during the final months of the American Revolution. This location has an important connection to the history of the Purple Heart. We are located on these grounds to mark the May 28, 1932 Temple Hill Day ceremony which occurred here when 137 veterans of World War I were awarded their Purple Hearts. The ceremony was part of New York’s Bicentennial celebration of the birth of George Washington. The commemoration of the sacrifices of Purple Heart recipients continues today most visibly through our Roll of Honor.

HALL OF HONOR
National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

The Roll of Honor is a database of Purple Heart recipients representing all wars for which the award has been available. Our timeline of recipients, based upon the date they were wounded or killed, runs from April 6, 1862-October 1, 2017 and grows daily as we receive new enrollments. These enrollments represent all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the District of Columbia and the Philippines. However, all enrollments are done voluntarily and are made by the recipients, their families or friends. While it is estimated that 1.8 million awards have been made since the award was created in 1932, there is no comprehensive list of recipients maintained by the government. In fact, the only award for which there is an official list is the Medal of Honor. All information on awards and decorations is found in the military records relating to the individual.  Our Roll of Honor is aimed at creating a comprehensive list of Purple Heart recipients, in order to preserve their history.

DABNEY PROFILE
Enrollment profile for Purple Heart recipient Clarence Dabney.

The Roll of Honor is accessible both in the Hall of Honor and online allowing anyone to view the preserved stories of sacrifice. The online version can be viewed from any computer via our website: www.thepurpleheart.com. The recipient’s profiles can contain pictures as well as written narratives of the experience of that recipient.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

If you are a recipient or know someone who is, we hope that you will consider completing an enrollment form for inclusion in the Roll of Honor.  Information on enrolling can be found on our website: www.thepurpleheart.com or you can call the Hall of Honor at 845-561-1765 and we will send you a copy of the enrollment form.

 COME VISIT:

The 7,500-square-foot Hall of Honor is open six days a week, year-round, and we invite you to visit.. Our timeline gallery pays tribute to the branches of service while commemorating America’s major military conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Our Main Gallery transports visitors through the Purple Heart experience with personal stories and artifacts that help tell the story from being wounded to coming home. Our 10-minute video lets visitors hear the stories of how nine Purple Heart recipients received their awards and what it means to them. There are exhibits and stories for visitors of all ages.  The facility also offers adult group tours and educational programs. To learn more about these offerings, please contact Peter Bedrossian, Program Director (peter.bedrossian@parks.ny.gov) or by phone 845-561-1765.

We hope to see you here!

Location:

374 Temple Hill Road

New Windsor NY 12553

Hours of Operation:

Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00-5:00; Sunday 1:00-5:00

Please call for holiday hours

Yes, We Have Pickles

Long before refrigeration and supermarkets made it possible to get fresh fruits and vegetables from around the world, our predecessors relied upon drying, salting, fermenting, and pickling summer’s bounty for winter meals.

Allowing the wind and sun to dry food is the oldest method of food preservation. The Seneca and other New York Native American tribes dried millions of bushels of corn each year. The dried corn was turned into hulled dry corn and corn flour to sustain people during the colder months.  Native Americans also dried meats, fish, and fruits such as blueberries for their winter meals.

Ganondagan Husking Bee10_Carol Llewellyn
Ganondagan State Historic Site Husking Bee, photo by Carol Llewellyn

Pickling vegetables and fruits goes back as far as 2030 BC. Pickling can be done in two ways, soaking the fruit or vegetable in either vinegar or saltwater (brine). The word pickle is a variation of the Dutch word for brine – pekel. Soaking vegetables in a brine bath is known as lacto-fermentation where lactic acid bacteria turn sugar in food to lactic acid.

Pickles of one sort or another have been produced and eaten in New York homes for many generations.  Early European settlers sometimes used New World ingredients in their Old-World pickle recipes.  One example of this is black walnut pickles, a variation of Old World English walnut pickles.  Pickle recipes were passed down from one generation to another, with housewives recording the recipes in their special recipe book.

New York’s first European colonists were the Dutch, who maintained settlements along the Hudson River as far north as Fort Orange (now Albany).  The van Rensselaers were a prominent Dutch family in the Hudson Valley.  When sturgeon was abundant in the Hudson River, Maria van Rensselaer (a cousin to the Fort Crailo van Rensselaers) would use this hand-written recipe to pickle the sturgeon.

On the score of hospitality p12
van Rensselaer family recipe to pickle Sturgeon, from Kellar, p. 12

And this recipe to pickle cucumbers:

Keep the Fruit n pickle till green, changing it often, then in cold water 2 days changing very frequently, then wipe and dry them & to every six lb fruit 8 lb Sugar, 6 lemons, ¾ raw ginger a bit of Mace- boiled to a clear Syrup.  When cold pour it on the fruit, the day after pour it off & give it another boil – the next day as the same & as often as necessary, never pour it on hot, for it will spoil them.

Eggs were one of many foods that were pickled because egg production is linked to day length; hens need about 13 hours of light a day to lay eggs.  Staff at Loyalist home Philipse Manor Hall may have used a recipe similar to this recipe from The Lady’s Assistant (p. 277) to make pickled eggs.

To pickle Eggs.

BOIL the eggs very hard: peel them, and put them into cold water, shifting them till they are cold.  Make a pickle of white-wine vinegar, a blade of mace, a bunch of sweet herbs, and a little whole pepper; take the eggs out of the water, and put them immediately into the pickle, which must be hot; stir them a good while, that they may look all alike; untie the herbs, and spread them over the top of the pot, but cover them with nothing else till they are turned brown; they will be fit to eat in nine or ten days.

Bruise some cochineal; tie it up in a rag; dip it in the vinegar, and squeeze it gently over the egg, and then let the rag lie in the Pickle. This is a great addition.

During his stay at the Hasbrouck House in the Hudson Valley it is possible that George Washington, who was a big pickle fan, dined on some of his wife’s pickles. Recipes from Martha Washington’s hand-written Booke of Cookery includes recipes (or receipts as they were once called) for pickling a variety of food from cowcumbers (cucumbers) to mackerel – George probably enjoyed them all!

220px-American_Cookery_(1st_Ed,_1796,_cover)

Cooks in the Jay, Livingston, and Schuyler families may have had access to Amelia Simmons American Cooke, the first American cookbook  It was first published in Hartford, Connecticut 1796, with a second publication in Albany New York also in 1796.

Pickling recipes in Simmons cookbook included pickling the barberry fruit:

The Lincklaen family recipe book from Lorenzo House included to pickle Chalottes (shallots) and to pickled cucumbers.

Pickled charlottes and cucumbers
Recipes for pickled Chalottes (shallots) and cucumbers from the Lincklaen family cookbook.

Frederic Church’s family maintained a farm and gardens at Olana in the Hudson Valley.  Some of the produce from the farm was used to make pickles, including this Sweet Variety pickle:

OL2000-959
Church family recipe for Sweet Variety pickle

Pickles were not only important part of many New York family meals, they were also a menu staple on the military bases in New York as this menu from Fort Ontario illustrates.

Fort Ontario Christmas dinner menu 1939
Christmas dinner menu, 1939, Fort Ontario.

If you would like to learn more about preserving the summer harvest, maybe you can join in on the We Can Pickle That! program at Clermont State Historic Site on September 8.

Please note: recipes in this blog are for historic reference only and should not be made at home.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides a wealth of information about food preservation as well as food preservation recipes for the modern family.

Resources:

Avey, Tory. (2014) History in a Jar: The Story of Pickles

Colonial Williamsburg, Food Preservation Fact Sheet

Extra Slaw, Pickled Green Black Walnuts

Kellar, Jane Carpenter. (1986) On the score of hospitality : selected recipes of a van Rensselaer family, Albany, New York, 1785 – 1835 : a Historic Cherry Hill recipe collection. Albany, NY, Historic Cherry Hill.

Mason, Charlotte. (1778) The Lady’s Assistant 3rd Edition, London.

National Center for Home Food Preservation, Historical Origins of Food Preservation

Washington, Martha. (1799) Booke of cookery.  K. Hess commentary, New York, NY, Columbia University Press

Wikipedia, Pickling.

Still_life_with_sausages
Still Life With Sausages, accessed from WikiCommons

Be a Voyageur!

Since the 1980s, there has been a 36-foot long, 16 passenger (plus two staff), fiberglass Voyageur canoe at the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center in Wellesley Island State Park. No one really knows where the canoe came from or exactly what year it arrived, but there are a few stories told about its origins.  Some say there used to be five Voyageur canoes located in parks along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and some say the canoe was made by NYS Parks’ employees.  Ultimately, the mystery of its origin is part of its mystique.  What they will say is that every summer for about the last 30 years park visitors and Nature Center staff have headed out on daily trips in our canoe to learn about the history of the Voyageurs and to explore the ecology of Eel Bay, the Narrows, and Escanaba Bay.

Voyageur canoe trips leave the Nature Center docks at 9 am and return at 11 am, but there is plenty for staff to do before anyone ever steps foot into the boat.  If it has rained, staff must bail the canoe and dry the wooden seats for passengers.

Unknown photographer 2003
Novice voyageurs head out on their first journey, photo by State Parks.

They also move the boat into place on the docks so it is ready for the day.  When that day’s voyageurs come down to the dock house they are fitted with personal floatation devices (PFD’s) and paddles while being taught about the fundamentals of paddling before heading out to the canoe.  Loading the canoe with passengers can be quite tricky, as people who are likely to be stronger paddlers must be strategically positioned in the boat and the canoe must be balanced on the water to safely leave the docks.  Once the canoe is balanced and its passengers comfortable, staff jump in at the bow (front) and stern (back) and slowly steer the boat out into Eel Bay.

The staff member sitting at the bow of the boat begins the interpretation as the large boat gets underway.  They talk about how the canoe weighs 1,000 pounds empty and how it is made of fiberglass.  As the passengers paddle, they discuss the importance of Eel Bay as a large, shallow water bay on the St. Lawrence.  Then conversation shifts to the Voyageurs who were part of the French fur trading companies that existed in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The interpreter weaves a tale about the adventures Voyageurs had as they transported furs, predominately beaver, from Montreal to trading posts along the shores of Lake Superior.  As the boat rounds the sharp turn into the Narrows passengers learn what a day in the life of a Voyageur was like, from what they ate to how they were paid.  The staff member sitting in the stern who has been quietly working to steer the boat will ease it to a stop as the canoe coasts into Escanaba Bay.  Passengers will spend a little time admiring the plentiful water lilies that dot the bay before reversing course and heading back towards the Nature Center.  On the return trip to our docks, some time is dedicated to floating along in silence, taking in the sights and sounds of the majestic St. Lawrence River.

Molly Farrell
Pat and Aziel Snyder standing next to the newly restored Voyageur canoe. Doesn’t it look beautiful? Photo by State Parks.

The canoe had begun to show its age in recent years but last winter Pat Snyder of River Restorations, a local boat restoration company, beautifully restored it to top condition.  A few sections of the gunnels were replaced, the gunnels and seats sanded down and refinished, the seats reinforced to help prevent deflection when people are stepping into the boat, and the fiberglass shell was repainted.  The canoe once again looks majestic and is ready to go out on the water!

Each July and August, look for the return of our sleek Voyageur canoe to the Nature Center’s dock.  For just $4 (anyone over 13) or $2 (under 13) you can join staff from the Nature Center on a memorable journey on smooth waters, travelling the shorelines of Wellesley Island.

For information on upcoming trips, please visit our Facebook page (Minna Anthony Common Nature Center- Friends).  To have enough paddle power to steer the boat, we must have at least 8 people over the age of 18 on board.  To reserve a spot on a trip, please call the Nature Center at 315-482-2479.

Post by Molly Farrell, July 2018

Learn more about Voyaguers:

Durbin, William; The Broken Paddle; Delacorte Press, NY, 1997.

Ernst, Kathleen; The Trouble and Fort La Point; Pleasant Company Publications, Middleton, WI, 2000.